The Campaign Spot

The Year Ahead in Politics

The coming year doesn’t feature a presidential or congressional midterm elections, but there will be some intriguing gubernatorial and mayoral campaigns, and a lot of positioning for the 2016 presidential campaign.

Repreasentative Michael Grimm, Republican of Staten Island, is resigning from Congress, prompting a special House election early next year, with the particular date to be selected by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Under New York State law, there will be no Democratic or Republican primaries. Instead, the local party organizations will each select a candidate. If, as some New York Republicans expect, the party nominates Daniel Donovan, the Staten Island district attorney who most recently failed to secure an indictment in the Eric Garner case, this could be an exceptionally heavily covered special House election.

Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi will hold gubernatorial elections, as well as state legislative elections.

In Kentucky, Democratic incumbent governor Steve Beshear is term-limited. State attorney general Jack Conway — of the infamous “Aqua Buddha” ad against Senator Rand Paul is expected to be the Democratic nominee. On the Republican side, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Louisville businessman and former city councilman Hal Heiner are running. Kentucky Supreme Court justice Will T. Scott is also considering a bid.

In Louisiana, Republican incumbent Bobby Jindal is term-limited and widely expected to run for president. Senator David Vitter announced he will run for governor, along with current lieutenant governor Jay Dardenne and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle. The Louisiana State Penitentiary warden, Burl Cain, is also considering running for governor as a Republican; insert your own corrupt-Louisiana-politician-in-prison joke here.

Some Louisiana Democrats are hoping to persuade outgoing Senator Mary Landrieu to run for governor next year. If she doesn’t run, state representative. John Bel Edwards is likely to be the Democratic nominee.

In Mississippi, Republican incumbent governor Phil Bryant is expected to run for reelection, and is considered “nearly bulletproof” or “likely to cruise to reelection.” Keep an eye on former GOP Senate candidate Chris McDaniel, reportedly considering his future options in state politics. The only statewide elected Democrat, state Attorney General Jim Hood, is expected to seek reelection to that office.

Separately, New Jersey will hold elections for the state general assembly. Democrats currently hold 48 seats, Republicans hold 32. Will Governor Chris Christie find time to help out New Jersey Republican candidates in these races, or will he be busy with his own campaign for president in the coming year?

Rahm Emanuel will seek reelection as mayor of Chicago; he begins with “virtually insurmountable advantage in campaign cash and facing a field of far lesser-known candidates. As a result, the Feb. 24 city election amounts largely to a referendum on Emanuel’s piloting of City Hall.” Still, he’s faced opposition from the city’s teachers’ unions (Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis was preparing to challenge Emanuel until she underwent emergency surgery for a brain tumor in October) and his approval rating is low.

Other large cities holding mayoral elections include Dallas, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Nashville, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Francisco, and Tampa.

The officially& meaningless but still heavily covered Ames Straw Poll is likely to occur in August. Iowa governor Terry Branstad called for the tradition to end, but Representative& Steve King, among others, intends to keep it. The 2011 Ames Straw Poll winner, Michele Bachmann, didn’t win the 2012 GOP Iowa Caucus — nor did straw poll winners in 2008 . . . and 1996 . . . and 1988. A reader wrote to me back in 2007, “As someone who worked on the [Phil] Gramm presidential campaign, I can say winning the Iowa straw poll doesn’t mean squat.”

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation announced it intends to host a televised debate for Republican primary candidates on September 16, 2015, at the Reagan Library in California. The Republican National Committee, which controls the allocation of delegates in the nomination process, hasn’t yet signed off on the event; the RNC may unveil a more detailed debate schedule at its winter meeting in January.

Finally, the final months of 2015 will be dominated by campaigning for the earliest contests of 2016. The Iowa caucus is currently tentatively scheduled for Monday, January 18; the New Hampshire primary is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, January 26.

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